THERE ARE sufficient safeguards to ensure that the $10 million relief fund for Members of Parliament will not be misused, according to Local Government Minister Dr Suruj Rambachan.
Rambachan was responding to criticism of the idea by both the Movement for Social Justice and the Opposition, which both claimed it can be used to buy votes in the upcoming two elections -- the Tobago House of Assembly and the Local Government elections in 2013.
He was speaking to members of the media following a meeting with the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association at the Trinidad Union Club, Nicholas Towers, Independence Square, Port of Spain.
The $10 million fund, for all 41 Members of Parliament, was approved by Cabinet last week, and Rambachan said that there will be legislation to guide the entire process to ensure accountability. Rambachan said the fund, named the Community Development Fund, was not a new idea since it had been touted in 1995 by the United National Congress and again by the People's National Movement, when it came into office in 2002.
"Now that we are in office, it is our intention that we bring participation of constituents in the development of their areas closer to them, in terms of the decisions they make," he said.
Rambachan said he believes that citizens have matured in how they vote in elections because the media has created a new political mindset.
"People are now voting on the issues of the day, people are more educated on the issues of the day, which is why government is coming under increasing pressure in terms of performance and delivery.
"People want the instant coffee type of delivery they are tired of promises. So government has to respond, so that the demands of the people are met. And this constituency fund will ensure that these needs, especially the local needs, are met," he said.